December 3, 1953 - Reprinted June 15, 1978
Transcribed by Janette West Grimes
* CALíS COLUMN *
†† I write these lines on Tuesday night, Nov. 24, 1953. On Sunday night, Nov. 24th, 1912, exactly 41 years ago, our own dear mother, died at the age of just 44 years. "Mammy," I had always called her, and tonight, two score and one year after she left her 10 children, she is still "Mammy" to me. This is not a stylish way to call one's mother and we could say, "Mamma," or "Mother" or some other word by which mothers may be designated. But to me, she will always be my "Mammy."
†† Our mother was born Feb. 19, 1868, on Peyton's Creek, just above Pleasant Shade. Her opportunities for obtaining an education were very limited and perhaps she did not get any further toward an education than what we would call the fifth grade of today. But she was a great reader and retained all that she read to a remarkable degree, having the finest memory of any person we ever knew. We sought to learn from whence she had this unusual gift. She had uncles and aunts with unusual power of memory. We have also learned that her grandfather, Lorenzo Dow Ballou, had a very fine memory, as did her brothers and sisters. Lorenzo Dow's father was Leonard Ballou, who married first Mary Metcalf. After her death he married Mary's sister, Sarah Metcalf, who was ther mother of Lorenzo Dow Ballou. From the Metcalf connection, the Ballous of a later date received their remarkable memories. One of our great-aunts, Mrs. Mary Ballou Cartwright, once informed the writer that the Ballous, prior to the bringing in of the Metcalf blood, were not possessed of any unusual gifts of memory. Anyway our mother had the most retentive memory we have ever known.
†† From her we have inherited some characteristics. Our disposition to gather facts of historical interest, to want to know somethings of the genealogy of the various families that we meet daily, to gather up old records and old books, and to keep some record of a lot of families, has been an inheritance from our mother. "Mammy" in the days long gone by could tell, to a day, when practically every child within a radius of four miles of her home, was born. We recall asking her once if she knew of anybody else born on our birthdate, July 8, 1891, and she informed us more than 50 years ago that a Negro boy was born at Cato the same day that Cal discovered America. However, she added that the colored boy died in early life.
†† Our mother had her deficiencies in some measure. She had not one bit of abitlity to sing, and the writer never heard his mother sing one line of one song in all his life. She was not the close observer that† our father was, although he had no more schooling than to ger as far over the bluebacked speller as "baker." "Mammy" never could tell much about the things of nature, once reporting to our father that she had just seen the new moon in east, a short time before sunrise. Our father was rather harsh in some of his responses and that time said, "You haven't got a bit of sense. You never see the new moon in the east. That is the old moon." Our mother replied, "Well, it looks like the new moon." She could never handle a hammer or saw and things mechanical never appealed to her.
†† She loved to read and was one of ther finest conversationalists we have ever known. She had not one bit of use for those she felt were hypocritical and were not so good as they pretended to be. She met our father in the late spring† of 1890, while she was attending a "candy-breaking," at the home of our father's sister, Letitia Gregory Wilburn, who lived over a hill in the next valley east of where our mother lived in that year. She did not quite catch our father's name, or rather the name by which he was generally known "Dopher." She thought that his name was Denver Gregory. He was then 28 years of age and was a handsome man, wearing the moustache common in that day and time. He is said to have worn the first necktie ever worn by a man on Nickojack Branch, and paid the highest price for a pair of trousers, ever paid up to that time on that stream. The reader will wonder how much that price was. It was $5.00 and would about equal $50.00 today. We have seen some of the old neckties he wore more than 60 years ago. They were fine material, largely silk and of colors that did not fade even through 40 years of time.
†† Forty-one years is a long period of time, and yet it seems only a little while. During that time, we have ceased to be a young man of 21 and am now a man of 62, with the frost of many winters on our brow. We have found many trials in our lifetime, but we have also found a lot of happiness. All in all, we have no complaint to offer as to our portion here. We have had more than we deserve, we feel sure. It is a terrible loss to a child to lose his mother, and none knows really and truly what it is until death has taken away his "Mammy." Mammy or Mother, and he is left without the best friend childhood ever had, our mother.
†† Our father grieved deeply, if silently, over our mother's departure. We do not recall that we saw one tear fall from his eyes. But from her death he was a stricken man. He seemed to lose his grip on life and went down hill, slowly but steadily, physically and financially. He got into debt and apparently did not have the strength to carry on, although he tried valiantly to do so. We saw him stagger as he walked through the field, sowing his wheat. We recall that he made one trip on foot that we regret now deeply. The writer had moved to Peyton's Creek to teach school in the closing days of 1913. We were living on the farm of the late H. E. Porter and we had no electric stoves in those days, but burned wood in the cook stoves of that time. We needed some help in sawing stovewood for use in the year 1914. Our father volunteered to walk all the way around the dividing ridge between the waters of Dixon's Creek and Peyton's Creek, a distance of about five miles, to our home. He arrived about eight thirty o'clock that Saturday morning in January, 1914. We worked till about 11: 30 and then went down to the writer's little home where the wife of our youth had prepared the midday meal. Our father was a peculiar man about religious matters and we had a dread of offering thanks in our father's presence. However, we did not back down and our father no comment to offer. He ate heartily of the one meal that he partook of at the table of his first-born and that was the only meal he ever ate at our home. We asked him not to work too late, and he started for his home perhaps at about three in the afternoon. About this time he suffered a paralytic stroke that left one side of his mouth drawn and out of line with the other side. He tried to make a crop that spring and summer. But autumn brought him a furthe decline in health. On the morning of Nov. 19th, the same year, 1914, at an early hour, he passed away and we did not reach him until he had gone into eternity. Two years before, lacking just five days, "Mammy" had left her ten children, three sons and seven daughters. Now our "Pappy," as we called him, had joined her in that land beyond the setting sun of life.
†† We have known many men and women, but we honestly consider that our father and mother were the greatest persons we ever knew. The writer, the oldest of the group of the ten children, had to assume, in some measure, the oversight of the younger children of the family. This oversight has cost us much, but we do not regret it and would do the same again if circumstances demanded it.
†† God bless the memory of our beloved "Pappie," and "Mammy" who sleep, side by side, in the old family graveyard on our grandfather's farm, near Mace's Hill. We would not call them back even if we had the power, to labor, struggle, wear out all too soon, and die prematurely under the tremendous burden of rearing ten sons and daughters and giving each of them a few educational opportunities that were denied these parents who loved their children with an undying affection.
†† On Tuesday of this week, we had a call to Mount Tabor, to have charge of the funeral services for William Walter Chambers, aged near 78 years. This story has to deal with the trip and some of its memories and events along the way. We left Lafayette at one o'clock, drove southward from our home town, to Meadorville where we took the newly constructed road leading to Pleasant Shade by way of Beech Bottom an Ebenezer.
†† About a mile east of Meadorville we came to the home of J. B. Mathis, ill and in his eighties. Here we boarded in the fall of 1911, when we taught school at Beech Bottom, about a mile further up the stream called Dry Fork. Here in the home of J. B. Mathis we found a welcome in our boyhood days, was well fed and our washing was done for the small sum of $8.00 per month. Our good friend, Mathis, was then an active farmer in his forties and had in his family, his wife, her sister, Miss Rowena Gillihan, a "hunchback" and a son, Floyd; and a daughter, Bernice, now Mrs. Gena Gregory. In this happy home of 42 years ago we spent three months that will always live in grateful memory.
†† Just above the Mathis home and at the end of a field still owned by him we attended a baptismal service on Sunday, Oct. 29, 1911, at which time Elder Jim H. Ramsey, then a young Baptist minister, baptized some eight or ten boys and girls, most of whom were our students at Beech Bottom. Also here on this occasion, we were asked by our good friend Otha L. Gregory, now of Route four, Gallatin, to take one of the girls to her home. We had then a new rubber-tired buggy, of which we were rather proud. We informed Gregory of our idea that nobody wanted the teacher to take any girl home. He insisted and finally we gave in to him and he said, "Now which girl do you wish to take home ?" We replied, "Any one of them." He asked that we be a little more specific and we finally said, "Ask the Gammon girl if I may take her home." He soon returned and informed the teacher that Miss Gammon would allow the teacher to carry her home in his buggy. Thus began a friendship that culminated in marriage† on Feb. 25th following. We found her excellent company, able to carry on a conversation and "sharing the talking." We were married under the old beech tree, sometimes called the "marrying tree," located then just below the home of the late Tom Brawner. Squire W. C. (Dock) Gregory, of beloved memory, performed the ceremony in the presence of a large number of well wishers and friends.
†† She knew none of the writer's people except his brother, Tom, and yet her love for the writer was enough for her to leave her parents, her brothers and sisters, and go among strangers to make her home. We have often thought of the love and affection she had for the bashful teacher who came into her community when she was 18, and whose sorrows and joys, and other things that belong to the "ups and downs" of life, she shared loyally with him until June 1, 1926, when she left her two children and her husband and went to be with God.
†† On our way to the funeral we passed by Beech Bottom Baptist Church, where the writer was pastor for 12 years, during which time we had many joyful experiences and found a people that we shall love always. We have no desire to boast, nor do we claim credit for anything out of the ordinary, but our church work at Beech Bottom was wonderfully blest of God, with 200 additions during our 12 years with this noble people. Our greatest meeting took place in 1943 when there were 47 additions to the church.
†† On the trip Tuesday we passed th mouth of the valley in which our first wife, the woman above mentioned was born. We saw the play ground on which her bare feet often played and romped in the years gone by. Pursuing our journey to the place of the funeral, we passed within 100 yards of the old "marrying tree," and saw the rough, rugged hill road that led therefrom toward our old home place at Mace's Hill, some 12 miles to the southeast.
†† Further eastward we came to the place where W. C. Gregory, above mentioned, lived in the years that have come and gone. He was one of the leading citizens of this county, clean, honorable and upright and a man of God. The new road leads through the farm he owned 40 years ago and more. His son, Gena, now our Tax Assessor, resides on the place. W. C. (Dock) Gregory, was the son of John Gregory, the son of Ambrose Gregory, son of Bry Gregory, one of the writer's great-great-grandfathers.
†† We left the waters of Goose Creek at the top the dividing ridge where the waters to the east flow down Peyton's Creek. We journeyed southward by the former home of Grant Jenkins, who married our first cousin, once removed, the former Miss Fannie Gregory, daughter of Bob Gregory, who was a brother of our grandmother, Mrs. Sina Gregory. They were a middle-aged couple. Grant was the son of Coleman Jenkins, the son of Samuel Jenkins, son of Roderick Jenkins, son of William and Nancy Jenkins, who are reported to have come to Tennessee more than 150 years ago from Buncomb County, North Carolina.
Our journey led down little Peyton's Creek past Ebenezer Baptist Church, where we have tried to preach many sermons and where we assisted in a number of good revivals. This church was established on Oct. 4, 1871, by the following ministers and deacons:
†† Elder Daniel Wiseman Smith and Elder Lou Allen Minick; and deacons J. G. Jenkins, J. Evans, Thomas Gammon and D. J. Smith. The church began with 14 members, seven males and the same number of females. The early pastors were: L. A. Minick, E. L. Smith, J. F. Lambert, and R. B. Davis.
†† The early clerks were: F. J. Cartwright, T. J. Hargis and W. C. Gregory, who began his services as clerk in 1901 and continued for more than 30 †years. The Gena Gregory above mentioned is the present clerk.
†† Early deacons were H. A. Gammon, W. R. Cothron and John Buie, all ordained in 1871; and T. M. Cothron, A. J. Massey and James Cothron, all ordained in 1888.
†† We recall the first time we ever heard of Ebenezer, slightly over 50 years ago when our uncle, Luther Gregory, made some remark about the place. We had never read then in the Bible the name, Ebenezer, which means "stone of help." So we misunderstood what our uncle said and shortly afterward referred to Ebenezer as "Japaneezer." Our uncle got a great laugh out of our wrong calling of the name and gave us a whopping big "Haw! Haw!! Haw!!!" We became terribly embarrassed and went away and hid. Just why little things like this linger in mind over the years and things of some value and worth slip away, we do not know. The first time we ever were in the community was in the early summer of 1911, when we were on the lookout for a school, and were given charge of the school at Beech Bottom, known on the school records as Old Bottom, and on the church records as Beech Bottom.
(To be continued)